SA dominated the majority of the game and Durban’s Dan Sibbald got the green and gold in front with a sizzling back-sticks shot from the top of the strike zone in the 40th minute after the initial assist from debutant Mondli Dlamini.
The Europeans finished strongly and highly experienced Michael Koerter found the equaliser in the 53rd via a penalty corner drag flick.
There was much to enthuse during this high-energy encounter and it was heart-warming to see the slew of SA debutants looking at home in the cut-and-thrust of world-level hockey.
There was a torrid battle in the engine room and here the SA captain Jonty Robinson and centre back Jethro Eustice – two of SA’s most experienced players – were invaluable in providing direction and cohesion to the playing pattern.
It was five minutes toward the end of the third quarter when Dlamini on the right fed Sibbald, who flipped the ball over a defender’s stick before rifling a reverse-stick blast past that rattled the backboard past replacement keeper Michael Maentler (1-0).
As the final quarter of the modern 15-minute chukkas of four began, yet another Durbanite, Mohammed Mea, slipped a through-ball to Southern Gauteng’s Brandon Panther whose rocket shot led to a second SA penalty corner but successive efforts from the set-piece came to nought, the latter strike flying on the wrong side of the crossbar.
As the vocal crowd sensed an SA victory, Koerter silenced the thought with the PC equaliser seven minutes from time, and two more late chances were foiled by the green and gold defence, the last bringing out a fine diving save from keeper Gowan Jones in a one-on-one with Koerter.
(all at Queensmead)
6 Jan: 2nd Test (6pm);
8 Jan: 3rd Test (6pm);
9 Jan: 4th Test (2pm).